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Gleaming chem lab ready for students

April 27, 2005|BY CANDICE BOSELY

-- The ribbon is cut for a new chemistry lab at The Community and Technical College of Shepherd.

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

It could hearken a visitor back to high school, except the countertops are not yet scarred by unauthorized Bunsen burner experiments gone awry. None of the glass beakers are chipped, none of the pipettes are cracked and the molecule models have not been rearranged.

It was not your average chemistry lab.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., came to The Community and Technical College (CTC) of Shepherd Tuesday afternoon to cut a ribbon on the college's new chemistry lab, which school employees described as being state of the art.

Capito secured $100,000 in federal funding for the lab.

Nursing students and those enrolled in fire science and safety technology programs at the college will use the laboratory, rather than being forced to drive elsewhere for required chemistry courses, said Carol Plautz, dean of the college's Health Sciences department.

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Starting in July, courses in the nursing program that lead to an associate's degree will be held completely at the Martinsburg campus, rather than being scattered between the Martinsburg and Shepherdstown, W.Va. campuses. Around 120 students are enrolled in that program, said Peter Checkovich, president of CTC of Shepherd.

Capito received a bachelor's degree in zoology from Duke University and joked that she now works in the largest zoo in the country - Washington, D.C.

She said she understands the importance of laboratories and added that a lab like that at CTC could help reduce a nationwide nursing shortage.

Also, Capito said, the grant shows that federal tax dollars are being returned to communities.

"I'm proud to be a part of this," she said.

The laboratory, room C05, once was a regular classroom and a storage room. Now cabinets are lined with beakers, graduated cylinders and other glassware. A periodic table of elements hangs on the wall. Natural gas and water faucets line the counters, while a fume hood in the back of the room allows for work with potentially hazardous chemicals.

After Capito addressed a gathering of college officials, chemistry teacher George Perry showed off the lab.

A new pH meter is computerized and enough glassware was ordered to enable each student to work independently, although typically students work in pairs, Perry said.

"I'm excited. I can't wait to start teaching in it," said Perry, who will teach Introduction to Chemistry courses for nursing and general studies students.

Perry said that when he gave a friend who works for the National Institutes of Health a tour, his friend complimented him on the scope and state-of-the-art nature of the lab.

The CTC of Shepherd is in the Dunn Building, formerly part of the Blue Ridge Outlet shopping center, at the intersection of Raleigh and Stephen streets.

Around 1,500 students are enrolled in CTC programs, Checkovich said.

Before the ribbon-cutting, Checkovich joked with the crowd that he was not a very good chemistry student.

"If only I'd had this stuff 30 years ago, think of where I could be now," he said.

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